Glass Railing


Some of you may remember the extensive renovations we undertook in March and April as we finally ripped up the decades-old carpet from our living and dining room and laid down wood-vinyl flooring. As is often the case with our renovations, we sweated it out, relied on much-loved help (waves at Grandma Rosemarie), and bought supplies at end-of-the-line clearance sales. However, in two places we splurged. The first place was in our bookcases, where we paid a friend who was a talented carpenter to install some crown moulding and make our bookcases look suave and built-in. Everyone agrees that this splurge was a success.

The second splurge cost us more, but is even a bigger deal. Separating our split-level dining room and living room were two sets of railings. These would be instantly recognizable to anybody who's spent any time inside a house built in the 1970s. These are the railings with wrought-iron spindles and a vinyl covering on top, often with the spindles painted white, and the vinyl covering some bronzy-gold colour.

Getting these spindles out in order to get the floor down was an ordeal. They were embedded at least two inches into the subfloor, which made them nice and sturdy and safe, but great pains to pull out of the floor in order to lay down the vinyl floor beneath. The thought of re-installing these spindles into the floor made us shiver, so we decided to look at getting new railings installed. And, we figured, if we're going to pay for this, they might as well look good.

So we turned to the artist Robert A. Brown. At his St. Jacobs' art studio, you'll see the wonderful things he can do with glass. He offers custom-built shower stalls with tempered glass heated to molten and allowed to drape across designs he lays down in sand. The result is a one-of-a-kind fixture for your bathroom. He also does railings.

The man was a consummate professional, knowing his way around the building code. Did you know, for instance, that the minimum height of railings over a four foot drop has increased by fourteen inches since the late 1970s? Yup: the old railings were just 28 inches tall. The one he installed, which meets code, is 42.

But that's beside the point. We talked to him about what designs we'd like. We were pretty flexible, and he had a standard wavy abstract look that he often liked to come back to. He also offered to build something special for the short railing beside the stairs leading to the dining room. After we approved the design for the big, long railing, he called us into his studio and let us lay our hands in the sand to create a special design that you see above. The hands are, in order from lowest to highest, daughter-the-younger, daughter-the-elder, mommy and daddy.

It took some time to get the glass melted and then cooled, but late last week he was ready go work on the installation, which all went smoothly, and we're really pleased with the result.

The railings, being substantially taller than the seventies' spindles, blocks out more of the view of the dining room, but it lets in at least as much light. The result is that the dining room has become both a brighter and more private space. From the living room, the design sparkles when the light shines behind it, and it is an instantly arresting visual when you enter.

Except for some little detail work, this brings our renovations to our first floor to a close (although, there's still a seventies-spindle bannister to take care of.). The place has been almost completely transformed since we moved in almost twelve years ago. The last of the original carpet will finally disappear once we refurbish the kids' rooms, but that's another renovation for another time.


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